1968 Special Olympics World Summer Games

The 1968 Special Olympics Summer World Games were held in Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois, United States, on July 20, 1968. Some of the smaller indoor events were held in the Conrad Hilton Hotel on Michigan Avenue. This event was co-sponsored by the Chicago Park District and the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation.[2]

1st Special Olympics World Summer Games
Host cityChicago, United States
Nations participating2
Athletes participating1,000
Events3 sports
Opening ceremonyJuly 20
Closing ceremonyJuly 20
Athlete's OathEunice Shriver
Torch lighter“James,” a seventeen-year-old young man[1]
Main venueSoldier Field

1,000 athletes from 26 U.S. states, and Canada competed in track and swimming. Swimming had two events including 25 meter races, and track and field had four events including 50 yard dash, 300 yard run, and standing long jump. There was also a softball throwing event.[3][4]

The athlete's oath was introduced at these games by founder Eunice Shriver at the opening ceremony. The oath is, "Let me win. But if I can not win, let me be brave in the attempt."

Notable athletes volunteered at the games, including Jesse Owens, Rafer Johnson, George Armstrong, and Stan Mikita.[5]


The inception of the concept for the Special Olympics came from Anne McGlone (now Anne Burke), at the time a physical education teacher working for the Chicago Park District.[5][6] In 1967, while teaching special needs children, she had the idea to host a citywide track meet for such children.[5] She asked Park District Superintendent Erwin "Red" Weiner and Park District Board President William McFetridge for permission to organize it.[5] The Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation had provided earlier funding to special needs programs in the Park District, thus McFetridge believed that Eunice Kennedy Shriver might be willing to provide funding for such an event.[5] In early 1968, McGlone wrote to Shriver proposing the event, and within days received an enthusiastic response from Shriver.[5] The event evolved from a track meet into an Olympics-style event for special needs children.[5]

To assist in organizing the event, they received help from Dr. William H. Freeberg of Southern Illinois University (an expert in recreation for children with disabilities).[5] They also received the assistance of Parks Board vice president Dan Shannon and McFetridge's assistant Ed Kelly.[5] The event began to take a national, then later even an international, scale as planning advanced.[5]


  • Track and field
    • 50-yard dash
    • 300-yard run
    • Long jump
    • High Jump
    • Softball throw
  • Swimming
    • 25-yard swim
    • 100-yard swim
    • Water polo
  • Floor hockey



  1. ^ "History - 1968 Games". Special Olympics. Retrieved 1 June 2022.
  2. ^ "Local Youths Win Medals". Dixon Evening Telegraph. 23 July 1986. Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  3. ^ "Local Youths Win Medals". Dixon Evening Telegraph. 23 July 1968. Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  4. ^ "Center Athletes 2nd in Olympics". Centralia Evening Sentinel. 22 July 1968. Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Ford, Liam T. A. (2009). Soldier Field: A Stadium and Its City. University of Chicago Press. pp. 246–247. ISBN 978-0-226-25709-9. Retrieved 2 June 2020.
  6. ^ Kenidrigan & Hodkinson, "Special Olympics Celebrates 30 Years", accessed September 20, 2008.
  7. ^ "History - 1968 Games". Special Olympics. Retrieved 1 June 2022.
  8. ^ "Out of the Shadows: Events Leading to the Founding of Special Olympics". Special Olympics.

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Special Olympics World Summer Games Succeeded by